The Ginger Breadman

It was just 2 weeks before the Grade 10 National Exams and everybody was freaking out, some students were prepared for it, some like me weren’t.
The year was 2013, not my year lol
Some Grade 10 students collected as many notes as possible and left school 3 weeks before the exams to do their own studies at home. They said they would study day and night at home, and come exam week, they would walk into the exam room and kill the exam paper, crush it between their fingers and put it into their mouths, swallow it and then excrete it for the exam markers to mark. What a statement!
Their level of confidence made me question myself, was I ready for this? I wish I had their confidence, I would walk into the exam room and wipe my bottom with an exam paper but no, I was shaking with fright.
I called my gang over during lunch to discuss the exams. We brainstormed on questions to expect on the exam paper by looking at the previous exam papers. We made up our minds that there was a high probability that questions that appeared consecutively on exam papers from different years were most likely to appear again on 2013’s exam papers.
I prayed that the government with all its power and might would pass a bill that would abolish Grade 10 exams and allow us to proceed to Year 11 without having to sit for the exams.
Just then one of the boys spoke up and said “I read that protein slows your brain and reduces your IQ, kaikai sosis na lamb flaps tumas ba mekim
you dumb”.
When I heard these words, I knew I was sure to fail the exams for I ate lamb flaps and sausage almost everyday at Goroka main market and Kakaruk market.
While I was busy contemplating my predicament in the coming exams, the same dude seeing the dismay painted on our faces said “But igat rot stap, sapos you kaikai planty ginger, ba you kamap clever”
It was like Pandora’s box, releasing all the evil into the world bringing doom to mankind but also “Hope” so that men may hope for better days, there was still hope and I only had two weeks to boost my IQ with ginger.
Oh how I wish I knew this piece of information earlier, since his elder sister was a scientist with IMR, we believed him.
So for the two weeks leading up to the exams, ginger was the main diet. I avoided the babarque stands incase I was tempted to grab a yummy Wasa stick meat. Every morning, me and the crew would walk into the market, grab a huge k1.00 bunch of ginger and just munch on it. Nobody dared complain about the ginger burning their mouths and throats because everyone wanted to pass the exams. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make, though our eyes were all watery from eating the spicy gingers, nobody wanted to stop.
At home, I started eating every food with ginger. Kaukau with ginger, banana with ginger, kumu with ginger and even Rice with ginger.
I even ate bread with ginger for breakfast lol call me the ‘Ginger Bread Man’.
I dug up all of mom’s ginger in the backyard and ate it all in one sitting, I ate it with the dirt and red soil on it, my funny brain told me eating ginger fresh out the earth with dirt on it will have more effect on boosting my brain IQ than the gingers that are washed properly and sold at the market.
I even made ginger juice, threw a whole bunch of ginger into the juice maker and made ginger juice which I drank every morning.
When mom asked why I was eating lots of ginger, I told her I had toothache and ginger was the best remedy.
On the day of the first exam, my crew and I walked into the exam room feeling ten times smarter than we were 2 weeks ago. Ginger was working, as my mates were about to take their seats in the exam room, they looked at each other and mimed the word “Ginger”.
The exams was okay, we didn’t just eat ginger. We studied too you know
After the exams, the dude who told us ginger would boost our IQ told us he had lied to us, and didn’t think we would actually do what he told us to do.
And so for the next 2 weeks after the exams, I was depressed as hell knowing I was definitely going to fail the exams and ginger had fxxked me up.
In my depressed state, I looked to Goroka’s finest local brew to make me feel better. I bought a 2 litre Live Lave Ginger Wine but instead of making me feel better as I anticipated, I felt terrible and bitter.
The taste of the Ginger in the wine brought back all the questions on the exams papers and highlighted the questions which I got wrong.
I felt hopeless so I drowned myself in my sorrow and certain doom with each soreh cup of the ginger wine.
When the results came out at the end of the year, I found out I would be progressing to Year 11.
The ginger guy saw me at the market one time and said “Mi tok wanem, ginger ba mekim you clever ya”
I wanted to punch him in the face. I hated the fact that I had to forgo my favorite lambflaps and sausage to eat ginger.
I even placed all my faith and trust on ginger to help me pass the exams that I didn’t feel the need to study for the exams for a few days. I felt ginger would revive everything I learnt in the classroom in the exam room during the exams.

My first Holy Communion

The Holy Communion or body of Christ as it is called by the Catholic church is one of the things that fascinated me most as a child growing up. I would sit in the pew and watch people marching up in a straight line to the priest who put the communion in their mouths or sometimes on their palms. I always wondered what it tasted like and was tempted one too many times to walk up to the front and get one but stories told to us about people who played with the communion frightened the hell out of me. There was a story told often to us to remind us not to mess with the Holy Communion, the story said that a man once took the communion and poked it with a needle and blood came rushing out of it. As a kid, I believed it. This of course was not true. Just a story to scare us, not just to strike fear into our little hearts but to make us respect it and show reverence.

I was 8 years old doing Grade 3 when I first took the Holy Communion.

This is an account of what happened in the church in 2005 at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Six Mile.

I sat next to my cousin and watched him as he opened his mouth and rested the communion on his tongue, he gently closed his mouth and then knelt down on the pew putting his hands together to pray and meditate. Me being inquisitive and curious watched as he moved his mouth and after a while, his lips. ‘He must be uttering a prayer and asking for forgiveness’ I thought for that’s what I was told, you take the body of Christ and ask for forgiveness and God will cleanse you. I sat back and examined myself; I had committed a lot of sin of late I thought. I stole some coins in my mama’s bilum to buy hubba bubba yesterday. I need the body of Christ to cleanse me. That was of course the secondary reason for me wanting to take the communion; the real reason was to know what it tasted like.

When I was in elementary school, I thought it was really the body of Christ that they ate but it wasn’t. It was just a metaphor, the bread signified Jesus and the last supper. Same with the blood of Christ, which is wine.

I was in third grade now; I knew it was not the real flesh of Christ but a bread because my elder brother and cousin told me so. By now, my cousin and elder brother had grown tired of me asking them what the communion tasted like every Sunday. Since I already knew it was bread, I wanted to know what kind of bread it tasted like because it did not look like a regular bread. It was shaped like a circle. Did it taste like regular bread we buy from the Ialibu’s bakery or something else? They both saw the look in my eyes and knew I wanted it so to scare me, they would tell me stories of people who played with the communion and were cursed by God.

When my cousin finished his meditation and communion, he rose to his feet and slipped back into his seat. I leaned closed to him and asked ‘em taste osem wanem?’, irritated he said ‘osem hubba bubba’ for he knew I loved hubba bubba. He said it as a joke of course but in that little mind of mine, I was analyzing the whole thing trying to make sense of it. How can a bread taste like hubba bubba. I leaned closed to him again and asked him on how to take the communion, annoyed by my continuous asking; he gave me the instructions on how to receive the communion from the communion minister.

I watched the people standing in line to receive the communion. Some open their mouths and had the minister place the communion on their tongue while others put out their palms and received it. Those who got the communion stood in front of the minister and took, making the sign of the cross while others took it back to their seats and put it into their mouth before kneeling down. I had seen this repeatedly but every Sunday, and knew what to do by now.

I spotted my elder brother on the altar helping the priest, he was an altar server. I surveyed the congregation and saw most of them had already received their communion. The priest had retreated to the altar and the communion minister was giving out communions to the last of the people in line. I counted the people in the line, there was about seven, and the line was fast getting shorter.

I took a deep breath and thought if I don’t do this now, I will never get another chance to do this, so gathering my courage, I got up from my seat and walked up the aisle towards the communion minister. As I was walking up, all eyes were on me. This was a strange sight for the congregation, to see an 8 year old kid walking up the aisle to get the communion. I felt that all eyes were on me, I wanted to turn around and go back but I could not, I had come half way already. I felt my thighs go numb, and then I couldn’t feel my feet. My palms were sweaty. I kept my head down as the last person to receive the communion walked past me going back to her seat but turned around to see what I would do.

The communion minister having given the communion to the last person was about to walk up to join the priest and my altar-serving brother on the altar stopped when he saw me approaching. I walked up straight to him, looked up at him as he was taller than me, then opened my mouth and at the same time extending my open palms to him indicating I wanted to receive the communion. I had forgotten what my cousin had told me. There were two ways of receiving the communion and you had to only choose one but here I was, mouth open wide and palms out like a hungry starving kid begging for food.

The communion minister studied me carefully and then looked at the congregation, then at me, he didn’t smile, this was a bad idea. In my mind, I knew he had registered me as the kid who used to come to the church yard and make rubbish and noise. I thought ‘ok he is going to tell me to go back to my seat’. However, to my astonishment, he told me to close my mouth and then placed my left palm over my right palm, as the left palm is the palm you use to get the communion, while the right hand is for picking it up and placing it in your mouth.

When my palms were in the right position, he placed the communion on my palm and walked onto the altar. I stood there with the communion on my palm, then realizing I had to eat it, I picked it up and placed on my tongue to let it dissolve by itself because you are not allowed to crush it with your teeth, my cousin told me. The last person who crushed the communion with his teeth lost all his teeth and had blood coming out of his mouth, that was what I was told which was not true, just a story to scare me. So careful not to crush it, I left it on my tongue and felt it slowly dissolving. I then turned around and walked back down the aisle. The whole congregation was in shock, they had never seen a little kid take the communion before and here I was walking down the aisle, chest out proud cos I had just received the body of Christ and all my sins would be forgiven but it didn’t taste like hubba bubba.
I think the people in the church called me stupid for taking the communion because you had be in the holy communion and confirmation class before you took it, plus you had to be above fifteen years old, at least. What I didn’t understand until late in life was that the communion minister who gave me the communion knew I was not ready to receive it, he knew I was still a kid but he went on to give me the communion.

I went back to my seat and slid in, every eye was still on me. My cousin grabbed me by the ear and said ‘Mama ba kilim you, Jesus belat lo you’. Upon hearing these words, All my sense of pride and the feeling of accomplishing something went away as quickly as they had come. I sat there shivering cos I knew my mother would murder me. When the church service was over, I was the first one out. I escaped home and prayed my mother did not see my walking to up get the communion but alas she had, everybody had and I was the talk of the day. I heard her voice when she approached the house; she was screaming and rebuking me calling me the devil’s child.

She came and grabbed me by the ear so hard that I felt the flesh from my ear tear. She dragged me to the church while continuously making the sign of the cross asking God to forgive me. In the churchyard, I was presented to the priest; my mom asked the priest to offer a prayer over me asking God to refrain from punishing the mischievous little brat. All the nuns and catholic brothers had a talk with my mom while I stood silent crying holding the torn ligaments of my ear.

They said I was too young but since I already had taken the communion, I had to join the communion and confirmation class. The following Sunday, I was ushered into a building in the churchyard for my first class; inside I was surrounded by adults. I was the only kid inside.

After almost 2 months, I was ready to receive the communion, this time I was qualified for I had taken the classes.
I was the youngest to ever take a communion in that church; I would say ‘Mi mekim history’ though it is not something to be proud of. Years followed and some younger people and others younger than me were also allowed to take the communion.

Fried Rice

I was doing third year when I was terminated from school on disciplinary grounds, I decided not to inform my family and planned on running away, to where I don’t know, but it was a plan I had formulated in my crafty mind while I was waiting for my decision from the disciplinary council of Divine Word University. I was scared of going home; I felt it was in my best interest that I keep the not so pleasing news from my parents, I feared the news would break my mother’s fragile heart and send my dad into a rage. I just did not have the courage to tell my family about my termination so I hung around the campus for a while until an opportunity for me to escape popped up on my Facebook news-feed.

It was from the YWAM Medical Ship, they were going on their sixth outreach in Finschaffen, Morobe Province and were calling for volunteers so without hesitation, I applied and was told to come on board the ship, which would be docking at Lae Port. I packed my bag and took the road to Lae from Madang.
I was a drifter, a piece of wood floating in the vast ocean called life, wherever the waves carried me, I would go. The tide was favorable and so I found myself in Lae City, PNG’s industrial hub.

It was late when I arrived at Lae, I told the driver of the Lae-Madang bus “Ayang” to drop me off at the port where I was taken on board the ship by an YWAM worker. The outreach would last for two weeks so I thought when the outreach ended, I would find another place to travel to, somewhere as far away from home.

On board the ship, I met people of different nationalities, and some locals. The next day, the ship raised anchor and we sailed off to Finschaffen. However, I am not here to tell you what happened on the ship, rather what happened when we went on a patrol. I spent the first week as a volunteer on board the ship working with the Optometry team going out to rural areas, conducting eye tests and handing out glasses to people. The second week, I was put to work in the galley to prepare food for the volunteers on board, which I really much enjoyed as I spent more time in the kitchen eating every type of food I laid eyes on.

The first week, we anchored at Langema Bay at Butaweng and served the surrounding communities and villages, we went as far as Sattleberg. During the second week, we sailed and dropped anchor at Dregerhaffen. It was there that one of the team leaders of the patrol outreach approached me, and informed me that we were going on a patrol to one of the remote areas of Finschaffen.

Once again, I packed my bag and went to Dregerhaffen secondary school field with the patrol team where a helicopter owned by Manolos Aviation airlifted us to Makini, a remote village perched high up in the mountains of Finschaffen. The climate was like that of Highlands, me having spent a significant amount of time in the Highlands can tell you that Makini is even colder than the Highlands climate. There was no road no road network for the people, the only road I saw while flying was constructed for the logging companies to move their logs down to the river, going all way down to the coast. The area was only accessible by aircraft and by foot.

We landed at Makini on a small airstrip built for single engine aircrafts; the airstrip was located near the aidpost, which served the entire population in the remote region. However, the aid post had been shut down for almost two years; the medical workers left and never came back. When the helicopter dropped us and took off, a small number of people came and gave us a warm welcome even though the place was cold.
Those of us who went on the patrol were eight of us. Three nationals and five expatriates; each an expert in their own field of work who had come on board YWAM Medical Ship as volunteers. We had a guy from Canada, a lady from Switzerland, An American, Two Australians and us three locals, one from Finschaffen and another from Kabwum and myself, from Central.
We were then shown to the house we would be sleeping in and had our cargoes moved in. It was a traditional house; the walls were made from woven bamboos, the roof was sago leaf and the flooring made from trunks of betelnut palms or just palms. Most of the expatriates had never slept in a traditional hut before so they kept inspecting it to see if it was safe to sleep in it. They were even surprised to see a fireplace in the middle of the hut. I explained that it was cold up here so a fireplace was needed in the hut to warm it while we slept. The American lady said ‘it’s just like our heating systems back in USA, how cool is that?’. I nodded in agreement. You got that right.

When we had settled in, it was already afternoon so I started a fire in the fireplace in the middle of the hut without any difficulties which from the look and the expressions on their faces was like me performing a magic trick. Upon seeing this, the swizz lady startled at how quick the fire was started said ‘Wow Duncan, you’re an expert in starting fires, how did you do that?’. In my mind, I was like ‘really?’, but I understood that most of them have never started a fire in their lives. Coming from first world countries, they had no experience in collecting wood to start fires so I didn’t say a thing.
They were here to serve my people by bringing much needed services to the rural areas and also to experience new cultures so I felt that as a native, I had to make sure they enjoyed the experiences.

When the fire was up, I poured three cups of rice into a pot, poured water in, measured it and set it on the fire, which was now burning like the furnace in hell because the Canadian guy kept feeding the monster with dried twigs. I told him to stop pushing wood and save some as we would be needing it later during the night to keep us warm. The villagers were kind enough to bring us more wood for our fire.

My two PNG friends were outside while I was in the hut with the foreigners making sure the fire was burning and also to make sure the guy didn’t push anymore wood in. When I saw the rice boiling, I minimized the fire and told them to keep an eye on the pot and if possible remove the pot from the fire when the rice was cooked or just let the fire die down. When I was sure they understood my instruction, I went out to join my wantoks for a smoke. Outside, the sun was setting in the horizon, the view was so beautiful that me and my wantoks stood overlooking the magnificent jungles below us, while we enjoyed our tobacco the locals gave us.

While we were laughing away from the Kande’s jokes, the Kande poked me and said ‘Muna, Go na lukim rice ya, mi smelim em fire stap ya’. I lifted my head and sniffed the air, and indeed, rice ya woklo fire stap. I ran like a madman into the hut and lo, inside the hut was polluted with the smell of the over burnt rice. I picked up the hot fiery pot with my bare hands and dropped it on the palm trunk flooring of the hut, and then opened the lid. The steam coming out of the pot burnt my hands and my face. I was so mad and wanted to swear but kept my cool and asked why they didn’t remove the pot from the fire to which the American lady replied and said ‘we did’t know if the rice was cooked or not’. I was about to explode but then remembered that they had never cooked rice on the fire before and his was totally new to them so I explained how cooking on the fire, works. Now I wanted to know why the fire was burning like hell when I had clearly instructed them not to stick any more wood into the fire.

Just as I had a feared, when I left the hut, the Canadian guy was back at it feeding the fire with wood until the flame blanketed the rice pot, the pot was black like a dark starless night including the rice. I inspected the pot of rice and found that almost 70% of the rice was burnt. Only the top part of the rice was properly cooked, the poor ones at the bottom of the pot were burnt beyond recognition. The other lady being concerned asked me about my hands but I told her it was okay and then went on to explain the rice was burnt and had to be thrown away and a new one be cooked. I did not want them eating burnt rice but to my amazement, one of them got and said ‘It’s okay, we will just eat it’. I looked of the other lady in surprise, ‘No no, this is unfit for consumption’ I replied in my best English to the American. She responded and said ‘It’s fried rice’ to which her other four friends nodded their heads in agreement and said something about eating fried rice on the fire.

‘No, this is not fried rice, there is a difference between fried rice and burnt rice’ I objected. The Swizz lady then asked ‘It will still taste like fried rice won’t it?’. By this time, I was about to lose my mind and kick the rice pot out of the hut. I stood up and went out of the hut to inform my two PNG wantoks about the disaster in the hut. I asked one of them to go cook the stew while I stood outside and got some cool air.

The foreigners were still in the hut watching the soup being prepared; they were surprised when we dumped everything into one pot when cooking the soup. I just told them that this is how we cook in PNG to which they all made several comments. One said ‘Now I wanna try that, PNG soup yeah?. Everything goes into one pot’. We all found that comment hilarious and laughed while the Kabwum was tasting the soup he had prepared, like any chef would do, taste the work of his hand before serving.
When the soup was cooked, we served them the best part of the rice, which was properly cooked, and for ourselves, the burnt part.

During dinner, we watched as they enjoyed their meal; complementing our cooking while we sat quietly in the corner and tried our best to swallow our burnt fried rice.

Child Soldier

It was around 11pm in the night when I heard the gunshots; my mother quickly trimmed down the burning kerosene lamp and told me to pick my younger sister up and carry her. My younger sister was also wide-awake and crying out of fear, my mother tried to soothe and calm her down but her attempts were to no avail. I was mad, if she continued crying, the Indonesian soldiers will surely find us but she was only three years old and could not stop. I knew she was scared, and so was I. I carried her on my back giving her a piggyback ride and went out as my mother packed the little material possessions we owned, a kerosene lamp, a few clothes, some rusty old plates and a cooking pot into her string bag.

I ran out and stood outside our makeshift house constructed from sago leaves and bush materials as the gunshots stopped. I stood listening to the silent night for more gunshots but there was a total silence, and then I heard a bang and saw a flare shot up into the dark night; I knew the Indonesian soldiers shot it up to light up the place. The red light from the flare pierced the darkness and lit up the area up to a quarter mile. From the shadows, I saw my people running into the bushes, old people too weak to move just sat beside the fire and waited for the soldiers to catch them and decide their fate. They had been running from the soldiers since they were but little kids, they had fought against the soldiers all their lives. Most have lost limbs; most had lost the will to live. They were tired of running, I heard one say as he was ushered by his grandson into the dark thick Papuan jungle.

Another flare was shot up and then a third, then nothing for some good minutes. Then the gunshots started again, continuous firing from AK47’s and AR15’s from the sound of the gunshots. The AK47’s were coming from our people, the resistance. I knew the guns because I once went to live in a training camp run by the Papuan Resistance. I stayed there for two months learning how to use a gun, handling explosives and the art of camouflaging in the jungle. The leader of the resistance said that the jungle was the only strong defense we had against the Indonesian soldiers and we must utilize it in our fight against them. We know the jungles like the back of our hand so we had an absolute advantage over the soldiers. I was going into my explosives training when my mother came and took me out of the training camp; she said I was too young for fight for the cause because I was only thirteen. That was two years ago.

We heard the gunshots continue when we were safely across the river, the gunshots died some minutes later, then we heard single shots fired from rifles. That was our men, then again no more. The flares continued going up into the dark sky, the moon did not come out that night. I think then moon did not want to witness the slaughter and blood being spilled on the land so it hid his face behind the dark clouds. We knew our resistance fighters had retreated into the forest or were sorely defeated in the battle. We made camp near a small creek and rested for the night as we had been walking for almost four hours. When I laid down, my mother said she was not feeling sleepy anymore so she would stay up until the first morning light. She had my baby sister on her lap; she sang some songs my grandmother used to sing to me when I was a child. I watched my sister suck her thumb and went her to sleep, my eyelids were heavy and eyes salty so I closed my eyes and my mind drifted to our fallen soldiers.

I woke to screams of agony and pain, most of our resistance fighters had been killed during the battle last night and a good number wounded.They were brought into our camping area on stretchers at dawn. Our women treated the wounded men while some strong men held them down. Bullets were removed from their flesh with knives and leaves from the bush placed over the wounds to cover them because we did not have first aid kits and proper medical supplies to treat wounds. After the wounded were treated, they were placed in hammocks suspended from trees and let to rest while the resistance fighters with platoon commanders gathered us to talk.

The platoon commander, a tall muscular fellow with scruffy beard wearing a Che Guevara shirt stood in front of us and gave a shot 5 minutes motivational speech about Papuans rising up to fight oppression and occupation on our land. When his speech was over, he punched the air and raised a clenched fist and shouted “Papua”, all of us responded and said “Merdeka”. He continued “Papua”, we responded “Merdeka”. One of the fighters gave out three shots from his rifle and everybody joined and kept shouting “Papua Merdeka”. Someone in the middle of the crowd started a song and everyone joined in, amid the singing, tears flowed down the cheeks of men, women and children when the Morning Star was hoisted on a tall palm tree because we did not have a flag pole.

Before our flying flag, we sang our song of freedom in tears with arms on our chests. After the small ceremony to honor the fallen and our motherland, the platoon leader once again stood before us and said he need soldiers. People were free to choose, no one was going to be forced into joining the resistance. He asked for volunteers, and without thinking, I stood and saluted the flag of West Papua. There was cheering and stamping of feet on the ground. To our people, fighting for our people and land is an honor. I turned and looked at my mother; she had tears streaming down her face. She knew she could not stop me, she also knew I was going to fight for a cause, fight for my land and my people. I was going to fight for the freedom of West Papua. I am fifteen years old now, the Western Media has labeled us as Child Soldiers, I am not child soldier, I am just a soldier ready to fight for what is mine.

A SMUGGLER’S TALE

The morning sun blinded Peter as he squinted his eyes to observe this particular traveler from a distance, he appeared to be in his mid-forties, he had a few grew hairs on his unruly shaved beard. The soles of his boots were worn out, just like the man himself. Both must have traveled far and wide. Peter thought as his eyes followed the traveler who went and stood next to the drain near the Lae-Madang bus stop in Goroka. He had a backpack resting on his chest. The traveler stood scanning not only buses but also the passengers in them. Peter whistled to one of his five Kina bus crews and signaled him with his eyes to check out the traveler, as he was a potential passenger.

Peter had been a bus crew for quite a long time working on several buses from Goroka traveling to Madang. His job was made easy when he was in Goroka because he didn’t have to run around looking for passengers or calling out ‘Madang Madang!’ until he exhausted his larynx. He had five-kina bus crews for that, while five-kina bus crews were running out dragging travelers and their luggage’s into the bus, Peter would chill at the buai table chewing and cracking jokes with friends or try his luck at the dart section.

In Goroka, there are five-kina bus crews and drivers. The five-kina bus crews go around looking for passengers while the five-kina drivers’ circles the bus around the bus stop. At times when there are no buses, this sees a rise in five-kina passengers. The five-kina passengers will secure a seat in the bus and sell it to those wanting to travel for K5 or K10. Bunch of opportunists but everyone got to find ways to earn money, Peter thought as he chewed his Madang stuck meat buai.

Peter watched as the five-kina bus crews who being skilled at sweet talking and convincing travelers to board their buses, tried their best at luring this traveler to board Peter’s bus. Peter watched as the traveler got on the bus and made his way to the last seat at the back and settle down near the window with his hands clasping tight his backpack, he thought the five-kina bus crews must have promised the traveler he would only pay K50, even though the bus fare from Goroka to Madang is K60.

Peter, working, as a bus crew traveling up and down the Highlands highway had met different people from different walks of life. He had developed a few skills having to do with studying human behavior and body language and having observed the traveler, he thought something was definitely odd and off about this human, he was acting weird when he stood next to the drain scanning buses. His eyes were everywhere as if he was running away from someone or looking out for someone.

Peter being observant, after a few minutes of studying the traveler’s body language came to a conclusion that this man must have had something in his possession, something he wasn’t supposed to be holding onto, something illegal perhaps, he having come across many people traveling from Eastern Highlands down to Madang, he knew he had to be prepared.

He quickly got on a bus at Goroka market and went to Seigu. At Seigu, he dropped into a second hand and filled up an empty 10kg rice bag with women’s clothing; women’s underwear’s, bras and tops. The second hand shop assistants gave Peter the awkward glance when he placed all the women’s clothing on the counter; this also drew the attention of many people second-hand. What would a man want to do with women’s clothing? Peter sensing the atmosphere and seeing the curios faces of the on-lookers, just said “Blo sales lo street oh”. Of course, he knew the people didn’t buy that but he didn’t care what they thought, he had a job to do and so he was off again, to the bus stop.

At around 11 am, Peter was back at the bus stop and by now, the bus was packed. Peter jump on the bus as the real driver of the PMV replaced the five Kina driver. Peter made payments to his casual workers; the five-kina bus crews and five kina driver and then called on the driver to pull out of the bus stop and drive to Faniufa service station to refuel the thirsty bus of some gas.

When the bus stopped at Faniufa service station, Peter stood up, looked at the passengers, cleared his throat and made a few jokes to lighten the mood of the passengers before giving a few toksaves to the traveling passengers. After his short toksave, he collected the bus fares and gave them 30 minutes to get whatever they wanted at the hauskai while the driver pulled the bus and parked it next to the vacant fuel pump to refuel. When the bus was refueling, all the passengers came out of the bus except for at least five people who remained seated in the bus. Two young kids, and three adults. Peter did a head count and started counting the bus fares collected from the passengers beside the bus to make sure very passenger paid.

One of the adults who remain seated in the bus was the traveler. He could be from Madang or Morobe, Peter was unsure. His old faded backpack was something big like the mountaineer’s backpack. He would open the bag’s zipper a little bit, spy into the bag, check the contents as if to see if it was still there and then zip it shut again before sitting it down between in his legs. Peter was still beside the bus counting the earnings from the trip, and once every minute, he would turn and throw a quick glance to see what the traveler was doing.

After counting his takings for the trip, he circled the bus to the other side of the bus to where the traveler sat. The traveler seeing Peter approaching, quickly put his hand into his string bilum, got out a buai, removed the buai skin and was now crushing the buai flesh in his mouth while opening the lid of the lime bottle, which was a pispis bottle doctors use in the hospital.

Peter being a talkative and a person with a great sense of humor tapped the window and motioned the passenger to slide the bus window open, which the man did hesitantly. When the glass slid open, Peter in his Goroka accent said “Apo nais wan eh, plis mi use’m kambang blo you pastem. Kambang blo mi, driver gim lo ol fokofi lo Lopi” which the man found hilarious and laughed, Peter was an expert in holding conversations, no sooner had they introduced each other, they were laughing and sharing smoke. Peter knew it was too early for him to ask the man about backpack and its contents, he would ask when the time was right, that is of course before they arrive at Kainantu.

When the passengers came back and boarded the bus, Peter gave laid down a few rules for the passengers to follow when traveling in the bus, rules like no smoking in the bus, chewers must have plastics or empty cans to spit their buai in and to not stop the driver every few miles to relieve themselves. Once the message was clear, the driver started the engine and by 12 sharp, they were at Korofegu bridge near the DPI station. There, the driver stopped the bus and everybody was asked to go relieve themselves, Peter still had his eyes on the man with the backpack. He assumed the man would never leave his backpack but then he saw someone jumping out the window at the back with a backpack, it was the traveler, Peter quickly circle around and waited for him, he had gone into the nearby bush and was relieving himself.

When he came out the bushes, Peter called him over and asked “Apo, mi lukim bag blo yu ya luk osem yu karim sampla hevi ya”, the man looked at Peter and rebuking his assumptions said ‘Nogat samting ya Apo’. Peter knew he was lying between his teeth so he said ‘Listen mate, help me help you. I’m trying to keep you out of trouble but I won’t help if you don’t tell me what you’re carrying’. The traveler looked around to see if anybody was nearby who could hear their conversation and putting his lips to Peter’s ear, he whispered ‘Boss mahn, mi karim hevi ya, 6kg drug mi pulapim lo bag’.

Peter looked at him searchingly and asked if he had done this before because how he conducted his business told Peter that this man was an amateur. He nodded his head and said no. Peter cleared his throat, and said ‘Listen to everything I am going to tell you to do, and you will go home to Madang safe with your illegal goods, do you understand?’, the traveler nodded his head still looking around. Peter slapped his head and told him not to act suspicious or weird or his actions might attract the attention of the passengers and most importantly the police who do road checks at Kainantu and Yonki.

Peter then told him to go in to the bus and get the 10kg trukai rice bag, which placed under the seat behind the offside seat of the bus and bring it. The traveler swiftly did what he was told to do, and was back in no time with the trukai rice bag, Peter then instructed him to go down to Korofeigu bridge and soak the contents of the bag in water, remove the price tags and bring the bag and its contents back.

The traveler did not check the contents of the 10kg trukai rice bag, he just ran off down to the creek to do what he was told to do in a hurry. The bag contained the second clothes, which Peter bought at the second hand shop in Goroka, but he did not tell the traveler what the content of the bag was.
When the traveler poured out the contents of the bag into the flowing water, what he saw caught him off guard. They were women’s clothing, they smelled of second hand clothing, and indeed, they were second hand clothes for they had price tags on them. The traveler thought why would the bus crew want me to wet all the women’s clothes and remembering Peter’s advice, he removed all the price tags.

When the traveler returned with the soaked clothing, Peter asked the traveler to empty the contents onto a dry grass and asked him to remove all the marijuana from his backpack. When the traveler started pulling out his goods, what Peter saw made his jaw drop. The drugs were, packed tightly and were wrapped with aluminum foils. He had never seen drugs being packed like this before. The drugs were packed in the shape of bricks, like how Mexicans packed their cocaine, seven bricks, Peter counted.

‘Now put them into the rice bag’ he ordered the traveler, the traveler quickly packed the bricks into the bag while scanning around to make sure they were not spotted by other passengers. After the drugs were loaded into the bag, Peter had the wet women’s clothing packed on top of the bricks, pants, bras and all. When the bus pulled out of Korofeigu, Peter just hoped the police would not do road checks today. He placed the bag under the seat, which was behind the offside seat.

When they arrived at Kainantu, Peter saw another bus coming up from Lae so he shouted to the bus crew of the other bus asking if there were road blocks ahead. The other crew shouting back from his bus said ‘only one road check just a few meters down the hill from the township of Kainantu’. The traveler sitting at the back felt a lump on his throat, his heartbeat tripled as he looked at Peter in fear, Peter motioned him to stay calm while putting a brave face so the traveler won’t have to panic and appear suspicious to the police at the road block.

When they arrived at the checkpoint, a traffic officer on the road called the driver to pull the bus over. The driver pulled over beside the road where the officer inspected his license and registration before calling out all the passengers out from the bus so they could search the bus. As soon as the passengers were out of the bus, a tall police officer who appeared to be from Sepik, from the look of his carving and dry face entered the bus and searched through the passengers luggage. Peter held his breath when the police officer pulled the 10kg bag out from under the seat, the traveler’s heart was beating fast and was ready to make a run for the nearby bushes if when the officer disccovered the illegal drugs.

The officer opened the bag and put his hand in; he felt something wet, felt like wet clothes. When he pulled the clothes out, in his hand were females bra and pants, ‘Yekereh!’, he exclaimed as he threw the wet clothes into the bag, ‘Bloody hell!’ he swore as he kicked the bag back under the seat where he pulled it out from. ‘Samting blo ol meri ya!’, wiping his wet hand on the seat covers of the bus and left the bus, Peter laughed so hard and said ‘Pasin blo sekim sekim ya, ba yu kisim klos blo ol meri’.

The angry officer yelled on the passengers and told them to board the bus and be off. Peter stood beside the bus door smiling as the passengers got into the bus one by one. Before the traveler stepped into the bus, he held Peter’s arm and whispered under his breath ‘Thank you boss mahn, mi gat dinau wantaim you’ and got in.
Peter just smiled, another successful operation!